Friends and Family

When parents separate, things become disrupted and start to feel uncertain. In short, the way the family works changes. While this is upsetting, it is normal.

For example, you might recognise some of the following situations:

  • If one parent moves out for a period of time or indefinitely, you feel like you have “lost” them
  • Your parents seem more short tempered, distracted, sad or emotional than normal
  • You find yourself seeing less of one side of your family
  • You move and might have to change school
  • Your parents seem to have less money, making joining in with friends’ activities harder
  • You find changes in your own behaviour affect your closeness with your parents, as well as friendships your family.

But there can be positives, too. Difficult times can also create stronger bonds with both your family and your friends. You might find out which friends you can rely on for support.

Who understands?

You will probably find yourself growing closer to those who make you feel happy and safe. It’s not just immediate family members but also aunties, uncles, cousins and friends of family, too.

These people will understand your situation without explanation. They can help you by being there when you ask for help – for a chat, company, access to therapy or support with your feelings.

Friends can be a real help, too. Sometimes, you just need an escape or a distraction from it all. Other times, what you need most is a shoulder to cry on. It changes from day-to-day and, again, this is normal.

Ultimately it is important to remember that your family and friends are there for you. They care about you and want to help.

See our article on Who will listen? for some thoughts on who you can talk to.

What can I do?

When there’s a lot going with your emotions and feelings, it can be hard work interacting with others. Here are some tips to help you cope with this.

DO – Talk to family and friends and be honest about your feelings.

DON’T – Feel ashamed of your home situation. Good friends will support you and won’t judge.

DO – Speak to your parents and ask them to help you maintain your friendships, no matter which parent you are staying. Explain calmly that your friends are important to you.

DON’T – Take on the role of the “missing” parent for your brothers or sisters. It’s not healthy for you or your siblings.

DO – Make time to be by yourself. Allow yourself time and space to process your own feelings. By understanding your own feelings, it may help you work out the questions you need answering.

DON’T – Isolate yourself. If you don’t feel you can talk to your family or friends, you could try talking to a teacher, sports coach, social worker or doctor. Or if you prefer to be anonymous, you could contact Childline (0800 1111) or The Samaritans (116 123). They are both available 24 hours a day.

When parents separate, it can be very hard to adjust to the changing dynamics. You might find that you change, too – sometimes without even realising it. Try to be patient with everybody, and give yourself and your family time to adjust to a new way of life.

Where Can I Find Help?

If you need someone to talk with and would like support from our partners, The Mix, use our interactive tool to find more content, a freephone helpline, online forums, apps and more: